This is what's buzzing in Eindhoven's club sceneWritten by Meike Jentjens
An ever-expanding city full of young people and dozens of club collectives willing to organise raves, but no place to go. This states the longread Effenaar published on December 7th about Eindhoven's nightlife. Comments about which people and groups currently are working hard to create safe spaces to dance reached us in large numbers. Bunker Bass organiser Alicia Halawane, club HAVEN’s Boukje van der Zijden, and Queer040 board member Johan Stribos noticed what the city's nightlife was lacking, decided they were up for the challenge, and went ahead at full speed.
They have the same goal: to bring 'their' people together and to give them a permanent place in Eindhoven's nightlife. And while there may be few physical clubs, a lot is going on. Niche subcultures are finding a home their way to new HAVEN, events are emerging from illegal raves after the lockdown, and the desire for an inclusive techno party in Eindhoven’s queer community is growing, according to a survey by Stichting Queer040.
The one place that has been doing fine consistently for a year is Dynamo's basement club, HAVEN. Boukje van der Zijden is the club's project manager and helps collectives and groups find their way to the club and organise events there. She explains that her goal is to encourage musical talent from the city to host a professional club night. 'By doing that, young people develop themselves in many ways, like socially and professionally. We build communities and help young people broaden their social network. I think these skills are essential to society's self-sustainability.'
Besides being the music venue known for the annual, world-famous pitch-black Dynamo Metalfest, Dynamo first and foremost is a place where young people get the chance to develop themself in their own creative field and subculture. And if those subcultures tell you they want to organise legal raves, you listen, when it comes to Van der Zijden. 'There was an increasing demand to host club nights in Eindhoven and book local DJs, but we were aware that we had too much of a rock and metal nature to do that well. So we completely revised Dynamo's night programming, which has become HAVEN.'
It starts with the new entrance on Smalle Haven, where visitors enter through Dynamo's emergency doors via the large industrial side entrance. Next, you descend into a dark hall to the basement via the concrete staircase, which immediately gives that feeling of wandering and intimacy in the night. 'That entrance fits with the feeling we want to give people,' says HAVEN's project manager. 'We want to be the club for new underground movements in Eindhoven. That requires an equally underground place.'
Van der Zijden also organised festivals when she was younger, the highlight of which was Fort Knox at the NRE site in 2014. She has lived in Eindhoven all her life and has seen a lot happening in the city. A few new developments: 'The drum & bass scene in Eindhoven is big, as is the techno scene. Hard techno is on the rise, a lot of people are asking us if they can bring their hard techno concept or if they can play at HAVEN.'
The inexhaustible passion for helping young people echoes in Boukje van der Zijden's voice when she mentions the latest project she is working on: CH1M3RA. On April 21st, they host a witch house rave, a movement known for its dark and occult aesthetic. 'They come up with the concept by themselves, I just help them with the aspects of event organisation that I am experienced in,' she says. ‘Collectives like CH1M3RA decide which DJs to book, I just give them a chance.'
A good example is Bunker Bass, a thriving drum & bass concept. Van der Zijden has been helping them for about five years and says the group organises the events almost independently. As a result, the party is almost always sold out, whereas other drum & bass parties in Eindhoven have trouble doing so. This is mainly because the community around Bunker Bass is so close-knit, stated by the project manager. 'It's a family.'
22-year-old Alicia Halawane organises the mega-successful event Bunker Bass. When she moved from Rotterdam to Eindhoven at only 18 years old for an internship at Dynamo, she was asked to develop a concept for the new rave basement. The energetic Rotterdam native was totally up for it. 'I was very into drum & bass at the time. So together with friends, I developed a concept of what we thought would be cool. So we just went for it and the first edition sold out immediately. I still can’t believe it: I was only 18 years old and I already had a sold-out event.'
A blossoming scene
Most new events get successful over time, not over night. In fact, in recent years, many new parties have popped up and disappeared just as quickly. So how did Bunker Bass become such a success, according to its host? 'I have quite a large network in the scene, and I'm always trying to expand it. Word spread quickly that Eindhoven would have its own drum & bass party. There weren't many of those already, so people wanted to attend. We used to be a small group mainly from illegal parties like forest raves or raves in empty buildings. As a result, more and more legal parties popped up, so the scene expanded in the region.' That even led to a permanent drum & bass stage at the now ceased festival We Are Electric, which nevertheless attracted around 20,000 visitors with its last outdoor edition in 2019.
As Bunker Bass continues to grow and they may soon become too big for HAVEN, the search is on for a medium-sized club. And that's where Eindhoven still lacks something, according to Alicia Halawane. 'We did consider moving the event to Mylc on the canal side, but that location is not permanent either. The means to grow and sick rave venues are still missing.'
Halawane faces another issue: the bigger the parties get, the less intimate and raw the clubs feel like. And that feeling of intimacy does suit the music, she says. 'I loved venues like Koelhuis, which are industrial and underground. We now just rave illegally or at someone's house, because the cool venues we did have are gone. I feel that the owners of those venues can't make their club nights profitable and therefore stop. SUBBAR wanted to stay open all throughout the night, but unfortunately, that's not allowed, and people want to party at night anyway.' So she goes partying in Amsterdam, for example in Radion or in De School. In Eindhoven, she dances at Mylc or Effenaar, next to her home base Dynamo. The wish remains: 'I think it would be cool to see if there are more places where Bunker Bass could find a residency.'
Beyond missing venues, there's something else that both Boukje van der Zijden and Alicia Halawane mention as a possible improvement for the club scene in Eindhoven. Plenty of ravers flock to the city for a club night and would love to do so in the future, but the poor connection to other cities by train at night gets in the way, according to Van der Zijden. 'The collectives can tell by their ticket sales figures that quite a few people travel to the South from cities like Tilburg, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam. The only inconvenience is that HAVEN is only allowed to open until 4am, which means that ravers have to wait a very long time for their train back, or have to crash on someone's couch, which keeps them from buying tickets. However, we can apply for so-called verlaatjes permits at the municipality ten times a year, allowing us to open until 6am, which already helps us enormously. The response to this is great, especially from people who can go straight home by train after partying. There is still a lot to gain there.'
They don't get any complaints about those late opening hours. 'Our security is used to managing crowds late at night and we work well together with the police, who never get complaints from people in the neighbourhood. The visitors and collectives are thrilled if we extend our opening hours.' With the new overnight train from Schiphol to the South, Van der Zijden is hoping for improvement.
A possible solution for boosting Eindhoven's nightlife was found in the night council that Siem Nozza founded, after being 'night mayor' of Eindhoven's nightlife for four years. However, things have remained quiet around the Night Collective Eindhoven since April of last year. Boukje van der Zijden thinks passionate people are the answer to the issues the clubbers of Eindhoven face. Opening new venues isn’t good enough; the clubs should hire people with expertise, so that those places can stay open longer than just a few months. 'I'd love to see more well-organised clubs, instead of lots of half initiatives that make it difficult for everyone.'
All in it together
It all comes down to working together, Johan Stribos agrees. He is the organiser of queer house party XTRA, which has been residing at Effenaar for almost a year. The party originated from the Queer040 Foundation for an apparent reason: To offer Eindhoven what is still missing, according to them. 'We should try to work together as club collectives in Eindhoven. This can be done, for example, by discussing who organises an event and what date, so that we don't steal each other's audience. The city isn't that big after all,' he laughs.
He saw many of his friends taking the train to Amsterdam, Antwerp, or Cologne for the weekend and wanted to keep them here, so he felt the need to host something himself. He asked his community what they were still missing in the city. Together with board members Dennis Drummen, Faron van Leeuwen, Joop de Fouw, and Daviet van Son, he decided to host a new techno night, KERNKRAFT, in addition to the house party XTRA. 'We started organising distinctly queer techno events with a tiny group of friends before the pandemic, because there weren't any. Gaybar De Regenboog on Stratumseind already existed, but we didn't quite feel at home there. Only DayDayGay shares the same values as an organisation, and although they are super good at their thing, they are also quite niche. So there was such a gap that nobody dared or wanted to fill.'
Everyone is different
A common misconception is that all queer people want or like the same thing. 'A friend of mine read that one in 10 people is queer. He just couldn't grasp that with such large numbers of queer people, we could not immediately fill up a club with them. But that's too easy; it's not like everyone in the community likes the same thing. For example, we were afraid Eindhoven would be too small for our techno event KERNKRAFT, but because of the built-up buffer we had from previous events, we could still try to bring that Berlin vibe to Eindhoven and see where it would go. The first edition at Stroomhuis sold out and had a nice mix of tourists and locals as visitors, with people respecting their house rules. 'We definitely don't profile ourselves as a gay party, it's a party for everyone. Eindhoven needed some time to get used to that.'
As well as Alicia Halawane, Johan Stribos ran into the problem with XTRA that the club they first chose did not have late opening hours, so he continued his search for other places to give his house concept a home. He got in touch with Effenaar booker Steffi Blonk, who was keen to bring XTRA to the Kleine Zaal. 'The second edition sold out a week in advance and people were very eager. Last October, we hosted the third edition during Halloween, HelloQueen, which fortunately also sold out. The dream is to organise an outdoor edition.'
'We're all about creating a safe place for women who want to make out with a woman, men who want to be with men, and doing so without any hassle. Those problems might arise in other places in the city. For example, I am married and I just want to be able to touch my husband without anyone taking offence. We throw out people who are not OK with this at our parties, so we're creating a space that's already a lot safer than other places.'
Besides offering those who need it a safe place to let it all out, Stribos also wants to make way for new talent. 'We are constantly aware that we have to book acts evenly divided between men, women, and others. It is difficult for us to book women who belong to the queer community, as we are less likely to find them in the larger Eindhoven region. But, if you know them, send them on!,' the Eindhoven native calls upon the city with a mischievous smile. The same goes for collectives that would like to collaborate with him.